Candidate disclaimers required by law
Why do politicians always end their pitch on TV with "I am so-and-so and I approved this message"? It sounds silly to approve their own speech, implying that they would disapprove of what was said if they didn't make this statement.
Answer: If you look more closely, you'll see that it's probably only federal candidates making that disclaimer.
There are all sorts of federal requirements on how and what candidates must disclose, depending on the means of communication and situation.
Among other things, the McCain-Feingold campaign reform laws sought to have federal candidates take responsibility for the content of their own ads, apparently resulting in a toning down of negative attacks. It was during the 2004 elections that ads began featuring candidates saying they approved the message.
In general, the Federal Election Commission requires political committees to have a disclaimer on all public communications, and requires a disclaimer on any "electioneering," or public communication "by any person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or solicits funds in connection with a federal election."
A disclaimer notice would identify the person or persons who paid for the ad or communication and, where applicable, the person or persons who authorized it.
TV and radio ads "must include an oral disclaimer spoken by the candidate in which the candidate identifies himself or herself and states that he or she has approved the communication."
If a candidate has not approved a message, the ad must disclose the name of the political committee or person responsible for the message, such as, "So-and-So is responsible for the content of this advertising."
There is no similar state requirement for people running for state or county offices.
Under state campaign spending laws, if a candidate's committee pays for an ad and it is the candidate talking on TV, the candidate does not have to say, "I approved this ad," said Barbara Wong, executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission.
"If someone else is paying for the ad, then they have to say whether it's with the approval of the candidate or if it's without the approval and authority of the candidate," she said.
"The candidates don't have to say, 'I approved this message.'"
The primary reason for the state requirement is to put responsibility on candidates if any "mudslinging-type ads" are run with their approval, she said.
Back to federal laws, while the FEC recommends disclaimer notices be included on all campaign materials, they are not required in certain situations, such as when a notice cannot be "conveniently printed," as on pens, pins and bumper stickers, or in skywriting, clothing, water towers "or other forms of advertisement where it would be impracticable to display the disclaimer notice."
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
. See also: Useful phone numbers